FTC Finds POM Wonderful Made Unsupported Health Claims

In a case that will set a precedent for the use of health claims in advertisements and marketing materials, the Federal Trade Commission recently upheld a decision by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) from May 2012 that found that the makers of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice deceptively advertised their products and did not adequately substantiate claims that it treated or prevented a variety of medical conditions.

The FTC’s Opinion and Final Order went even further than the judge’s determinations of false advertising and insufficient support for claims.   It found that POM made deceptive claims in 36 ads (from such publications as Prevention and The New York Times) and promotional materials, which is nearly double the ALJ’s finding of false or deceptive claims in only 19 of the challenged items.  

The Order bars POM from making any claim that a food, drug, or dietary supplement is effective in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of any disease, unless the claim is supported by two randomized, well-controlled, human clinical trials.   The Opinion also rejects POM’s arguments that the FTC’s stance violates the First Amendment and Fifth Amendment due process rights.  

Advertisers using health claims in ads should carefully examine the FTC’s decision in this case.